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Taxpayers seek study of joint school bus system

Friday, July 15, 2011

By FROM BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

Representatives of the Taxpayer Association of Martinsville/Henry County urged the Henry County School Board on Thursday to study merging and privatizing the county and city school transportation systems.

Rick Horton of the Iriswood District said the county school board "showed leadership" in supporting a 2010 study of merging city and county school systems, and he urged the board to support the association's proposal to study merging and privatizing the transportation systems.

The change is needed due to economic challenges, the need to become more efficient and declining enrollment, Horton said.

Roanoke City Schools "created a template for us to follow" in 2009, when that school division contracted with Mountain Valley Transportation, a division of the Pennsylvania-based Krapf Bus Cos., to manage school transportation, Horton said.

Roanoke school officials approved outsourcing transportation to save an estimated $250,000 annually "and guarantee that students ride on newer, safer buses," according to the Roanoke Times website.

The bus company also leased the city's school garage for $60,000 a year, Horton said.

The taxpayer group contacted Krapf, and Horton said the company "responded positively" about a possible study to combine the two local transportation departments, which the taxpayers group would conduct at no cost to the school division.

Vince Puccio, also a member of the taxpayer group, urged school officials to support a joint transportation feasibility study with the Martinsville division, with a goal of merging and privatizing both transportation systems.

The county school division already has privatized custodial staff, so the concept is not new, he said.

"We feel privatizing bus service would contribute to overall savings," Puccio said.

The school board directed the staff to look into the possibilities and make recommendations to the board. No timeline was given.

Also Thursday, the board heard from the Rev. Tyler Miller, pastor of Morning Star Holy Church, who said schools Superintendent Anthony Jackson visited his church and presented a strategic plan.

"Glaringly absent" was a clear goal of closing the achievement gap between minority students and those in other populations, Millner said. He also urged the board to assign someone to work on gaining parental involvement, which Millner said also was absent from the strategic plan.

He asked the board for the conditions under which it would reconsider a motion to rename Axton Elementary School the Axton/Irisburg Elementary School. Irisburg Elementary School closed July 1, 2010, and its students now attend the Axton school.

Millner also urged the board to "become a champion for one school division" to serve the city and county. A merged/consolidated system "is the best option" and would provide the best education possible, he said.

Merger talks were halted earlier this year.

Millner also criticized the school board and the Martinsville Bulletin for not including his attempt to speak during a special meeting June 27 in the board's minutes or the Bulletin's coverage of the meeting.

 

 
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